Manchester United have had the look of a champion for 33 weeks of the English Premier League this season. Now they have the chance to put the title away—in front of the Old Trafford faithful, no less—when they take on Aston Villa on Monday night.
FOX Soccer @FOXSoccer
With Manchester City's loss, Manchester United can now win the Premier League title with a win against Aston Villa tomorrow.2013-4-21 14:22:04
It's a mark that they could stretch to 16 points on Monday against the Villans, which could make them the new English champions for 2013, a goal that United had begun working on the moment Sergio Aguero netted his title-winning goal that afternoon against Queens Park Rangers.
On any other given Sunday, the matchup against Aston Villa is a tricky one—even for United, with their strong, talented team and their home-ground advantage.
Villa's back line can be strong when required; they have a number of good, young midfielders, and they have the attacking talent required in Andreas Weimann and Christian Benteke to truly hurt the Red Devils through the middle of the field—something we saw when they met earlier in the year.
United were forced to come from two goals down in the final 40 minutes to win, which may not be as easy this time around. Villa are, after all, better equipped to hurt the Red Devils having spent more time in the Premier League, and the threat of relegation will no doubt spur them on.
As Rangers showed against City last year, the threat of relegation and all that comes with it can drive a team to play better than they have all season.
If Villa were able to defeat United this weekend, they would ensure that Queens Park Rangers and Reading would be relegated this year, which would surely boost their chances of survival and would no doubt stir up in them a footballing talent not seen this year.
Yet all of that changed when City lost on Sunday night.
For now, United stand at the precipice of history, with a 20th league title and all the glory and celebration of winning the league just one more win away.
The Red Devils will have the resolve of a championship team when they take the field at the Theater of Dreams on Monday night, with the knowledge that they are just 90 minutes away from English glory.
No relegation threat or star Belgian striker is going to change that.
United can see the title in their minds—it may well be there on the sidelines as well—and they will know that all they need is one more performance to finish this season in victory. And there's nothing that Villa will be able to do to stop that from coming to fruition.
The Red Devils have sputtered in recent weeks, winning just one of their last three, but form simply won't matter when there's a title to be won this weekend.
Look for United, and Robin van Persie, to make it No. 20 against Villa.
Hit me up on Twitter for more sports goodness: Follow @dantalintyre.